Converting advantages into wins

Technical questions regarding Openings, Middlegames, Endings etc.
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Alex Holowczak
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Converting advantages into wins

Post by Alex Holowczak » Fri Mar 30, 2012 8:02 pm

One of the common themes of games I play is that I get into a superior position out of the opening, but I miss a whole heap of ways to convert them into a win. I've no idea why, and thought forumites may be able to help.

Here is a game I played last night.



Clearly, I'm just a pawn up for free by move 6. I overlooked the e5 thing. But I missed many opportunities that Fritz throws up. I then got to the endgame knowing I was clearly better, but being unable to work out how to win. I even knew I had to play f4 at some point to avoid a blockade on the kingside, but I couldn't drum up the courage to play it, because I couldn't see that it'd be winning once I'd done all that.

My efforts the previous evening were in a similar vein.



I knew 18. Nf6 was the right move, but I couldn't work out a clear win, and saw phantom counterplay opportunities for my opponent. So I settled for 18. Re3, completely missing 18...f5. I even saw that 22. f4 was the right move, but again thought it risky so shied away. I then made things much worse for myself in my opponent's time trouble (at move 30). It was 1-1 in a 4-board match by the time move 32 racked up, with the guy sat next to me clearly winning. So 32. Qd4 was an attempt to grovel a draw. For some reason, he declined the draw offer and gave up the chance to take the rook, after which I was completely winning. After that I was comfortable, and knew I'd win. (I won on time because he hadn't bothered to check - or indeed, press - his clock for many of the preceding 10 moves.)

So my questions are:
1. How can I improve such that I convert the good positions I seem to get?
2. Why do I always chicken out when there are risky moves that are good, when there are so-so alternatives available? How do I get out of the mindset where I play the conservative moves, when riskier moves are more accurate?

Roger de Coverly
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Re: Converting advantages into wins

Post by Roger de Coverly » Fri Mar 30, 2012 8:43 pm

Alex Holowczak wrote: 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Nxe5 Nc6 4. Nxc6 dxc6 5. d3
Clearly, I'm just a pawn up for free by move 6.
An advantage to white, yes. An advantage without compensation, open lines, rapid development etc, then no. Judging from the rest of the game, your opponent had a style perhaps best described as "mad hacker". Still you fended him off and consolidated. As you say, f4 in the ending is the winning try, especially with his king some way off. After that his active king again gives compensation. So 32 f4. Other than a desire to centralise the king, is there any point to 32 Kf1?

In the second game with Nf6, you only really need to calculate the consequences of him taking it. As long as you can see that you deliver mate or win the material back, it's worth playing. Even without that it's probably the obvious candidate move, so "worth a punt".

Alex Holowczak
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Re: Converting advantages into wins

Post by Alex Holowczak » Fri Mar 30, 2012 9:48 pm

Roger de Coverly wrote:
Alex Holowczak wrote: 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Nxe5 Nc6 4. Nxc6 dxc6 5. d3
Clearly, I'm just a pawn up for free by move 6.
An advantage to white, yes. An advantage without compensation, open lines, rapid development etc, then no. Judging from the rest of the game, your opponent had a style perhaps best described as "mad hacker". Still you fended him off and consolidated. As you say, f4 in the ending is the winning try, especially with his king some way off. After that his active king again gives compensation. So 32 f4. Other than a desire to centralise the king, is there any point to 32 Kf1?
It seemed relatively easy to get the compensation. When I asked him about his opening, he told me after the game that "Be2 was the move that stops it". I never asked what "it" was, but there is presumably some sort of opening trick. I felt I was clearly better until the blunder on e5.

I was fearful of swapping pawns off (and getting nearer a draw) with f4 Bxh4, and I thought it was too hasty and favoured a more cautious way to proceed. I subsequently discovered that all I could really do was swap off pawns once his King got active...
Roger de Coverly wrote:In the second game with Nf6, you only really need to calculate the consequences of him taking it. As long as you can see that you deliver mate or win the material back, it's worth playing. Even without that it's probably the obvious candidate move, so "worth a punt".
I think I saw getting the Bishop back, but then I couldn't see what attack I had remaining. I then feared that the pawn on f6 would just get gobbled up, and I'd end up ruining the position. In my efforts to avoid ruining my advantage, I managed to ruin it through being more cautious. :roll:

Maybe I should just be a bit more cavalier about these things...

Roger de Coverly
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Re: Converting advantages into wins

Post by Roger de Coverly » Fri Mar 30, 2012 10:11 pm

Alex Holowczak wrote:When I asked him about his opening, he told me after the game that "Be2 was the move that stops it". I never asked what "it" was, but there is presumably some sort of opening trick.
Right out of the Chandler collection, this looks like the "it".



Not the first example of course.

Playing Nc6 in the Petroff is a new one to me, although there's a gambit idea with Nc3 as white (1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nf6 3 d4 Nxe4 4 Nc3. Also there's a version of Nc6 in the Latvian. For example 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 f5 3 Nxe5 Nc6. 4 Qh5 with manic play is now possible instead of Nxc6 .

Alex Holowczak
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Re: Converting advantages into wins

Post by Alex Holowczak » Fri Mar 30, 2012 11:19 pm

I'd seen something sac-y along the lines of Bxf2 and Ng4, and thought it'd be the kind of thing he'd play. Be2 was as much to stop Ng4 as anything else. I think I avoided that one by accident!

Geoff Chandler
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Re: Converting advantages into wins

Post by Geoff Chandler » Sat Mar 31, 2012 1:59 am

Hi Roger.

3..Nc6 is a real opening trap. If the intended victim spots it
then he has the better position. it is a genuine OTB risk.
A lot of so called opening traps are traps that just happen to be there
as the result of a standard developing move and carry no penalty
if the player side-steps it.

The trap you gave is trap two in this line. Trap one is:


Andrew Bak
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Re: Converting advantages into wins

Post by Andrew Bak » Tue Apr 03, 2012 12:01 am

Alex Holowczak wrote: Maybe I should just be a bit more cavalier about these things...
From my experience, when someone gains an early advantage (e.g material or some positional dominance), they tend to play in a much more 'safe' manner instead of trying to find the objectively best moves in a position. I think it is always important to remember that even when you have an advantage, it is often correct to go into a complicated line, perhaps even sacrificing the extra material to convert the full point.

On the flip side, the side who is at a disadvantage is often playing in the knowledge that if they do nothing, they will simply lose, so they try to complicate things, or just throw the kitchen sink and see what happens. This is the time when the player with the advantage often has to be at their most careful and be on the lookout for potential defensive resources or tricks that the opponent is trying to set up.

Converting advantages against tenacious opponents is extremely hard, just look at Andrei Volokitin's failure to beat Gawain Jones in Round 9 of the recent European Individuals!

Alex Holowczak
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Re: Converting advantages into wins

Post by Alex Holowczak » Tue Apr 03, 2012 10:30 am

I was indeed more cavalier in last night's game, and I promptly lost in about 16 moves. :lol:

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John Clarke
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Re: Converting advantages into wins

Post by John Clarke » Sun Apr 15, 2012 12:23 am

I've found more than once to my cost that getting too much too soon and/or too easily can bring trouble later on. With the material or positional advantage achieved, one tends to imagine the game will now "win itself", and it can be incredibly hard to reach the necessary pitch of intensity if the going suddenly becomes tougher than expected.
"The chess-board is the world ..... the player on the other side is hidden from us ..... he never overlooks a mistake, or makes the smallest allowance for ignorance."
(He doesn't let you resign and start again, either.)

Jonathan Rogers
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Re: Converting advantages into wins

Post by Jonathan Rogers » Thu Apr 26, 2012 6:27 pm

I see this thread a bit late, but still ..

What strikes me about the first game Alex is that you are probably still winning just a move before the end - 50.g5 followed by Kg4 should do the trick. Your bishop on e1 is actually very well placed there (even though you may have felt forced to put it there! - but activity is no longer everything when all the major pieces are gone) because from e1, not only does it protect c3 but it also stops him from exchanging pawns with ...b4.

Not to say that you didn't drift earlier, but that maybe you should work on your endagmes for a while and then revise how bad your tendency not to convert advantages is.

Giulio Simeone
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Re: Converting advantages into wins

Post by Giulio Simeone » Mon May 07, 2012 4:11 pm

I'm another late-answerer ... I looked at the first game quite quickly and without computer, I will try mostly to point out some strategical concepts:

1. The plan Nbd2, c3, ecc. seems too "standard", why not 8. Bg5 threatening to destroy his kingside and in any case putting pressure on his knight (where can he go?)

2. With 22. bxc6 you destroy the thick pawn formation that protects his king with a very strong attack;

3. After 25. ...Rxb5, you have a bishop against a knight and you can win a pawn in many ways: in order to choose the right way to win the pawn, though, you have to keep in mind some very important things about the bishop vs knight endgame;

1. The bishop can control both sides of the board, the knight can't; with bishop against knight, a pawns' majority on one wing usually wins even when the opponent has a majority on the other wing.

2. In order to get its maximum strength, the bishop should not be obstacled by his own central pawns.

Given these two principles, it's easy to found the right move: 26. c4! After this move the g5 pawn falls (26. ...Rf5 27. Rg7), and you get a 3 - 1 kingside majority with the h4 pawn which is very likely to fall. Black can capture the c4 and d4 pawns and get even a 3 - 0 majority on the queenside, but given principle 2) you haven't to be afraid of that, with opposite side pawns' majorities the bishop is stronger than the knight. Moreover, with c4, you remove a pawn from a central black square; after, if needed, you will push also the d4 pawn and your bishop will be completely free to move from one wing of the board to the other.

In the game, instead, his knight find a very strong square in c4; with your pawns in c3 and in d4, your bishop is weaker than his knight and probably he can quite easily reach a draw. Though, he crazily moved his king to the queenside (he hoped to win? :-)) and gave you further winning chances. Probably Jonathan Rogers's suggestion works, but I think that also 48. Bd2 or 49. Bd2 should win ... surely a bishop can deal with a passed pawn far better than a knight can deal with two passed pawns. After 48. Bd2 Nh7 49. Kg4 Kc4 50. Bxg5 black manages to exchange the minor pieces but then, after the pawn race, white promotes the 'h' pawn with check reaching a Q + P vs Q endgame!! I didn't analyze with the computer, but probably, after some checks, white manages to exchange the queens and brings the 'g' pawn to promotion.

In certain positions, in order to convert a little advantage into a win, you have to risk; when you have a bishop against a knight, though, "risking" is safer than in many other cases, because in complicated and open positions the bishop works better than a knight.

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